Reflecting on Roots during March Nor’easter

And just like that, we are back in NYC.

During today’s magnificent nor’easter, where umbrellas are turnt and the wind is pushing us around like a bully, I have this moment to reflect on our visit to LA.

“Just like that” included 30+ hours of flight delay, our worst flight experience ever.  This was 4.5 hours trapped on a plane that never took off, countless pilot announcements that assured us that “once we get to the de-icing machine” we would be taking off and then getting timed out due to FAA regulations, getting to the hotel at 3:30 am after the shuttle was delayed, schlepping loads of luggage on ice-covered stairs beyond the hotel parking lot, and living at the airport the next day after checking out of our tiny hotel room.

I am beyond grateful for no one getting sick despite the exhaustion.  In fact, the boys hardly noticed the plane delay as they were content, watching airplane TVs directly in front of their mugs for hours upon hours.

This was baby girl’s first flight outside of my womb.  Dramatic first flight experience.  She hardly cried out on the plane despite usually sleeping only in her crib.  She was just happy to sleep on my body, whether stuck on a plane or camped out the next day waiting for our make-up flight.

I had a talk with my oldest that traveling is a huge blessing in that it takes health, time, and money to be able to swing it.  When this monstrous delay hit, Micah thoughtfully said, “We had the money and health, but not the time.”

When I was pregnant with Olive last year, we opted to travel to Orlando instead of LA for various reasons.  One of the reasons was that LA is always loaded for me.  It is my Sliding Doors city, though I never aspire to be a Gwyneth in any form.  This could have been my other life.

So, visiting my hometown always makes me more emotional than traveling elsewhere.  It’s a trip to drive around the places I grew up.  Memories flood me as I recall moments, as blurry as they may be.

It almost seems like fiction that I was ever 20-somethang, meeting up with girlfriends, working my first full-time job in West Hollywood (you mean I gotta do this almost everyday!?), eating sushi complete with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger from my lap while stuck in traffic on Sunset Blvd., commuting from Chatsworth to UCLA for graduate school, blasting POWER 106 while cruisin’ the Valley.  Or even before then, attending high school and being a teenage girl feeling all them feelin’s.  Junior high when it was still called junior high, all the way through when we first immigrated to Koreatown LA when I was almost five.

And when I’m back with those I lived those moments with, my NYC life seems like it was all a dream…until I look at the husband and three New Yorker kids who are living proof that NYC happened…and is still happening.

I used to think that staying in your hometown wasn’t truly living and drooled at my globetrotting girlfriends’ experiences but I now see the beauty of staying close to home as good things are often right under your nose.

I am super grateful for all of life’s moments and while the “L” word is sacred to me, I can honestly say I have love for everyone that has ever been a part of my life in some way, those who were visitors and those who remain.

Only the good Lord knows where we might end up next.  I would love more sun, slower pace, lower cost of living, nature, nature and more nature, people of color, good public schools, at least one fat life-giving job, and people to do life with.  (Kevin said most of my list points to Florida but NO, please NO!)




Olive is 8 (months) and “When Breath Becomes Air”

On 1.28.18, our Olive Tree turned eight months old.  I’m finally getting used to saying “my daughter.”  It seems like fake news that she ever lived inside of me even though I have pictures and witnesses.  She looks like both her brothers though lately, favoring Micah more.  I wondered aloud if she resembled Oliver Platt when she pouts but Kevin got offended.

She still looks a bit like Governor Christie, just like Micah resembled Paul Giamatti as an infant.

She joined our family when The Middle was 4.5 and Firstborn was 6.5 but to think of those years without her, with just the boys, seems odd and made up.

Everyone comments on her how serious she is.  Her stare game is strong.  Her gentleness is evident too as she coos and babbles and tries to suck on her own toes.

We never had to cry her out for sleep because she only cries when it’s an emergency.  I teased Kevin for jumping up to spring her, Mr. Let’s Cry Them Out When Newborn, Oops, Is That Too Early.  He claims he is not being easy on her because she is his little girl but that once he tried to ignore her cries and she had vomited a bit so she trained him early that she means business when she cries.

She loves to pull on glasses and grab noses.  She also loves to grab her brothers’ cheeks and wants to be included in play.  She is an old soul.  Her smiles and sighs still make me want to pass out from delight.

I recently read an unforgettable memoir called “When Breath Becomes Air.”  Dr. Paul Kalanithi blessed the world with this book before he passed away from Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 37.  His book took my breath away as he was clearly brilliant and unbelievably in touch with his mortality.

Kevin, on the other hand, read a few chapters and put it down.  “How could you put it down!?  I wanted to read it in one sitting.”  I suspected he didn’t want to read it because it is just too sad.  Kevin explained that he didn’t want to read it because the dude is on another level of brilliant and he could not connect to those heights.

True, his intelligence was almost comical.  Laughably smart.  And as a neurosurgeon, his contributions to the world were quantifiable yet immeasurable.  Death does not discriminate.

I also happened to read this book when Olive was the EXACT SAME AGE as Dr. K’s own infant daughter.  Here is a message he wrote for his daughter before he passed away, before he had a chance to complete his memoir:

“When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied.  In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

If I may bite offa this brilliant man for a moment…

Olive, I hope we always remain as close as we are right now, as you peer into my eyes and beat my bosom as you nurse.  I know mothers and daughters are notorious for butting heads and not seeing eye to eye later, but please know that you were just a daydream of mine until God deposited you in my 39.999 year old womb.  Unlike Dr. K, I *had* known a joy like this in prior years, through your brothers, but I didn’t know that I would get to experience this again, for what must be the last time.  Please know that when your not-young mom swings you at the freezing playground, she still resists the urge to lift her mittened-hands to the heavens in gratitude and in awe of you.  (I also don’t lift my hands because I got to spot you on the baby swing.)

Olive you.  I hope I get to be around for a LONG time.  To see my Olive tree grow.

Thank you, Dr. PK, for sharing your story with us and reminding me again that every gummy, babbling, suddenly-not-sleeping-through-the-night, pudgy-cheeked, breast-pumping-at-work-during-appointed-time-slots, moment is a gift.



These Thoughts Got to Go Somewhere

I am overdue for many things I wanted to write about so I am going to spill them out at once.

  1.  The Despicable Larry Nassar:

    “The disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, a judge announced Wednesday, after more than 150 women and girls said in court that he sexually abused them over the past two decades.” (CNN)

    This man violated girls *while their parents were in the room* seeking his help for their daughters’ gymnastics-related injuries.  Gasp!

    This vile man made me realize that even though I try my best to be my kids’ protector, advocate, and cheerleader, there is a tremendous amount of faith involved in letting them go daily.  Faith not only to release them into their large NYC public school, but on fieldtrips and extracurricular activities where I can’t fully know the character of the parent chaperones or coaches or strangers they are bound to come in contact with.  As of now, their activities are not full drop-offs, but I will need to entrust them in this world’s care more and more.

    Please, Lord, protect them.  You are Lord and I am not.  It is not possible for me to be their protector at all times.

2.  Your Privilege is Hanging Out:  A lawyer mom who married wealthy and will likely never work again, by “choice,” posted the most self-indulgent, privileged, tone-deaf and insensitive drivel I have ever seen.  She is a SAHM with a staff that does what most SAHMs have to do for themselves, including a full-time nanny, house cleaner, a gardener, and a gardener who only does the weeding(!).  She is the 1%.

What irked me was that she couldn’t foresee the sh*tstorm she would start by directly and specifically laying out her riches before the weary eyes of most other moms as they got ready for work, whether it was work they must do or choose to do, or SAHMs who do what her staff does for her.  She even added a line about how she is the lady that we all love to hate.  Oof!  You can be that privileged but have the sense to not blast it out on a huge social media group of moms who don’t lead such a charmed life.

For my own health, I need to move on from eyerolling since last night BUT the good that came out of this is that it reminded me that I will definitely invest more in doing stuff that gives me life, OUTSIDE of my beloved kids.  Though Tone Deaf’s creature comforts do sound cushy, it reminded me that my dream is not to become a lady of leisure.  I want to have purpose beyond excessive self-care that sounds more like she doesn’t want to do any chores.

I now work again part-time out of necessity but even without that financial necessity, I would do some form of work because I have longings and skills separate and apart from being a mama.  I find it crucial for my mental health though I know this is a loaded topic and some extremely conservative circles don’t support this notion.  I firmly believe that having my own identity will help when the Empty Nest years hit, even though I stay home more than work.

3.  Rule of Life (as explained by Pastor Rich Villodas  – copied and pasted from one of his posts):

Here are the steps…Step 1
Write down everything you currently do (or hope to do) that nurtures your spirit and fills you with delight  (e.g. people, places, activities).   Normally, when we think of spiritual activities, we limit ourselves to things such as prayer, going to church, worship, and Bible reading. Don’t censor yourself.  Your list may include gardening, walking the dog, being in nature, talking with close friends, cooking, painting, jumping out of airplanes, or any number of other possibilities. List them all!
Step 2
Write down the activities you need to avoid, limit or eliminate that pull you away from remaining anchored in Christ.  This refers to avoiding certain things that impact your spirit negatively – such as violent movies, excessive social media involvement, being harried, and going beyond your limits. The list that you create, whether you know it or not, is your unconscious way of life.
Step 3
What are the challenging “have to’s” in this season of your life that are impact your rhythms? (e.g. caring for aging parents, a special needs child, a demanding season at work, parenting small children, an illness, etc.)
Step 4
Fill in the Rule of Life worksheet.  (See photo below – Pastor Rich’s example)
Step 5 – Share your Rule with someone as a means of helping you utilize it to order your life in the way of Jesus.
My Step 1 – WHAT NURTURES MY SPIRIT definitely includes reading and writing.  And nature.  And beauty.  And even boring adult stuff like making sure we have enough income so that finances don’t suck out my life force.  And nurturing real-life friendships despite busyness.
My Step 2 would be to pull away from excessive Facebooking as evidenced by my wasted energy, viscerally reacting to that lady’s post.
My Step 3 is that we are parenting three small children including our bonus infant while juggling 1.5 work schedules.  I need to respect this limit instead of trying to Amazing Race all around town and feeling guilty for not setting up playdates during this stage.
Thanks for reading.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Though it seems like an odd testament to the existence of God, I can always testify to His existence and realness when I experience a palpable darkness trying to creep in.  I can feel Light and Darkness.  So, just what am I talking about?

I’m not sure if Kevin or I noticed this first but EACH time I blogged about how well we were doing during my pregnancy with Olive, how jubilant I am about this bonus baby, or how our marriage has been resuscitated after years of struggle, I would face some strange tribulation the next day.

Kevin wisely suggested that we almost anticipate it and pray specifically against it.

This was not limited to when I would blog about happy thangs instead of writing about persistent struggle and angst.  It would also occur when Kevin and I were doing exceptionally well and creating new, healthy habits.  Like a couple nights ago, Kevin and I finally had our New Year’s talk, using Pastor Rich’s Rule of Life steps (which I hope to write about, too).

We were pleased with ourselves for not automatically reaching for the remote control once the kids went to bed.  Instead, we wrote down what gives us life and what impacts our spirit negatively, in order to give ourselves some direction and motivation this new year.  We prayed for these plans and desires to take flight.  And we even had time left over to watch my new favorite show, “The Chi.”

The very next day, our family’s sacred MLK Jr. Day, another meaningful day in our household – one son named after MLK Jr. and another conceived on MLK Jr. Day 2012, I had such an emotional setback that I couldn’t believe it.  As with many setbacks, the trigger shoulda coulda woulda been manageable, but it set me off so disproportionately that I am still processing.  Details are too boring and gratuitous to use up my word count here.

So yeah, when we are doing very well, or I share about doing very well, I can feel darkness trying to deposit thoughts like, “Really though?  You guys good?  Have you really progressed?  Maybe not?  How about I throw you some shit and see if you really overcame?  You think people wanna hear about how good you doing, Pollyanna?”  and other more unsavory words of doubt and darkness.

I even said, “Dang, Kevin, maybe I shouldn’t share praises then!?”  Seems like an easy solution?  But no.  I will not be silenced by fear.  I refuse to dim the light in order to accommodate darkness.  I will keep sharing how He is working in my life even through my failures that DO make me wonder if I have progressed at all.

One blessing I dare to share about today is my middle son.  The boy has a way with words and sometimes utters things that literally take my breath away.  Last night, after my emotional setback that still got me like, “Huh!?”, the whole family listened to Dr. MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Ellis prayed, “Oh Lode, please make Martin Luther King Jr. alive again today.”  Yes, Lord, may his spirit live on during these dark times.  We need it.

And on 1/1/2018, the first day of the New Year, another day that is sacred not just to our family but to all who love a fresh new start of a new calendar page, I had another emotional snafu.  (Hmmm, I had probably shared some praises again or felt especially grateful for the last week of 2017).  After we made some dumplings from scratch, a New Year’s Day tradition we want to keep up when we are at home for New Year’s, I burnt the first batch because I got distracted.

Should be no big deal but I got real down on myself like, “Dang, girl, what the hell is wrong with you?”  and spiraled a bit when I thought I was getting better with this self-flagellation problem.  I told Ellis, “Mommy’s not doing too well.  I know it’s not a big deal that I wasted those dumplings but sometimes, Mommy talks mean to herself and she gets stuck.”

He stared at me with those eyes that look right into my soul and said:

You are my heart.  (“You ah my haw-wut.”)

You are loved.  (“You ah loved.”)

When I gave him my typical big reaction, gushing and embracing him, he somberly said, “I’m not done.  I love you.  And you are beautiful.”

It really felt like God sent me a little messenger when I needed words of affirmation to drive out my thoughts of condemnation.  I asked him to repeat himself.  He said it again to a tearful Mommy and blessed me over and over again.

Please feel free to receive those words of blessing for yourself.

**The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. – John 1:5**



MistleTOE Marvel

Happy New Year!  I don’t have a profound declaration or meaningful mantra for this new year as I didn’t get to collect my thoughts during the last week of 2017.  So for now, I will settle for a measly rhyme:  “Year One Eight, You Will Be Great!”  And I’m still looking for a theme verse with vivid imagery for 2018.

The last week of 2017 was filled with quality family and friend time, a whole lot of togetherness in both NYC and CT.  I will spare you our December calendar.  Instead, I just wanted to capture one magical-in-the-mundane moment that took my breath away.  Magic in the mundane is a theme I keep getting drawn to, my favorite kind of treasure hunt because it’s so easy.

The boys had finally completed their last day of school on December 22nd, so close to Christmas Eve.  It felt comically late as CA friends seem to have been on break for a while.  To kick off our one week of holiday break, I announced that we should go for a family swim after dinner, though it was dark and cold out.

“Family swim” meant the boys would go with Daddy to the local pool while I stayed home with Olive.  Once they got back,  I would get tagged for my turn in this relay-parenting we’ve grown accustomed to.  It was tempting to skip my swim as it was already their bedtimes and so much warmer in our apartment with our glowy, fake Christmas tree.

But I started getting excited to finally go for my solitary swim at the end of the year, when I couldn’t make homework or dinner an excuse for not going.  My body ached to move beyond school pick-ups and baby lifting.

And what a great way to kick off winter break.  The swim would be cleansing, like a baptism into well-being.

Olive was babbling up a storm and I kissed her all over as she was bouncing up and down on my lap after she had nursed.  I noticed she was due for a toenail clipping as her little toenails scraped my thighs.  I grabbed her little feet and almost gasped when I spotted her pinky toenail.

It was extra small, curved funkily and growing up into the ceiling instead of straight across.  JUST LIKE MINE except 40 years younger, cuter and juicier.

Kevin always teases me about why I bother to have a pinky toenail when it’s that small.  The few times I’ve had a pedicure, the person doing my nails has had to basically paint my skin since there is only a dot of upturned nail.

With the Christmas music playing and with the apartment aglow with Christmas lights, I teared up once again, not just about this little girl being gifted to our family in 2017, but struck by how I’ve already handed things down to her, like this baby toenail.

What else would I pass down?  Both good and bad.  Perhaps she will be curious and compassionate like me?  Expressive and emotional?  But will she also feel things too much like me?  Prematurely grey?  Freakishly skinny wrists and ankles with nothing else thin?  Unforgiving of entitled, spoiled people?  And so much more.

I’m going to be one of her strongest influences.  Lord help me raise her up right.

I also thought about one of Kevin’s favorite songs, “Things We Handed Down” by Marc Cohn:

“Don’t know much about you
Don’t know who you are
We’ve been doing fine without you
But, we could only go so far
Don’t know why you chose us
Were you watching from above
Is there someone there that knows us
Said we’d give you all our love
Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I’ve heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we’ve handed down …”

I wanted to text Kevin the picture of MistleToe Jr. and also ask when he might be coming home so that I wouldn’t back out of my swim.  Just as I was about to text him, I happened to look out of our big living room window to see and hear the joyful commotion of my three, bundled up guys walking home, Kevin holding on tightly to their cold, little hands.

Though they are growing up so fast, I thanked God that they were still little as I watched them cross the street.  I thanked God for them literally looking up to their dad at the crosswalk, still innocent enough for a night swim with their dad visibly delighting them.  I could feel their smiles from across the street.

And Olive, you just might inherit other funky traits from your mama, other than your funky pinky toe.  Please forgive me and know that you amaze me just by existing.  You got nothing to prove, girl.  And you can tell me anything though I know I have big reactions.  Will work on that.

Hope y’all had a merry holiday season.  Here’s to 2018!  May we have our arms stretched out to receive God’s mercy and grace that He hands down to us each moment.



2018 is not a birth year for any of my children so I hope to take a break from cards.


12.24.17  Olive’s first Christmas Eve candlelight service (photo taken by Pam Chowayou)


Micah is SNAPPING, ok!?


Olive the baby teenager


Mistletoe Marvel






Yesterday was 12.12.17

Dear Olive,

Yesterday was a memorable cute date of 12.12 for our nation, thanks to Alabama.  I wondered if we should have at least included “Selma” as one middle name for you.

I was so nervous that I’d be embarrassed once again, embarrassed to birth you into a world of our current President’s dangerous buffoonery, while your brothers only knew President Obama, and even embarrassed like during your first extended outing where someone had left a big turd on the changing station at a Costco, for the next person (us) to have to deal with.

I felt like man, you were safely ensconced in my womb and you emerged for such a shit show this year but Alabama gave us a little something to hold on to though dag, that was too close for comfort for such a no brainer choice.

Before your daddy and I got to watch the election results late at night, the whole family got to enjoy some Christmas activities like decorating the tree and nibbling on some Christmas cookies while your brothers danced to Christmas music.

Thanks to you, we put up FIVE stockings this year in our new apartment.

I used to write on here about how I didn’t quite know how to celebrate or do the holidays merrily because my parents had to work so much and celebrations had to take a backseat to making ends meet.

I’m now able to enjoy so much more and I don’t dwell on the lack of available extended family.

As cheesy as this is, and I know I’ve said this in some form at least 57 times on here but thank you for gifting me with joy each time I get to snuggle your fresh, fleshy face and peer into your ever-alert eyes.  You were not an obvious missing piece in family photos until you arrived, if that makes any sense.  You still new around here but when I think of life before you, I see a huge Olive-shaped missing puzzle piece.

Thank You, Lord, for knowing our hearts’ desire even before it was a glimmer in our eyes.

Heads up, girl, it’s gonna be in the 20s with howling winds when we go pick up your brothers today.




December’s Double Doctor Delight

Dear Micah,

First things first:  I’m sorry for telling you to leave your homework on the table for Mommy to check after she makes dinner, actually, hold on, after she gives your sister some butternut squash, oh wait, after she fetches your brother some rice so he won’t “help” by climbing into the fridge to get it himself.

When you were already in class this morning, I saw the homework still sitting there, unchecked.

I’m also sorry for the less-than-yummy dinner I made last night.  I forgot to add a whole cup of water to the Instant Pot so the pasta came out crunchy, while I told you guys to eat up.

I’m sorry for always asking you to get something for me these days – “Micah, plug in the tree. Micah, grab me the wipes.  Micah can you make sure your sister doesn’t roll onto the floor?”  While it’s imperative for everyone, young and old, to pitch in, I do wonder if I ask of you the most.  You, your dad, and I are all firstborns so we get it.

I’m still thinking about your doctor appointment on Saturday, when you were seen for your seven year-old wellness exam at the same time as Olive’s six month exam.  I was so happy to score one appointment for two kids.  Your brother got to spend a bit of special time with Daddy.

You were such a bashful baby and toddler, offering up all your toys to any little one who came near you, even before they asked for a toy, while I was like, dag, you got to be able to handle confrontations, boy, especially as a minority!  Stand your ground.  Use your words.  Don’t let entitled moms and kids alike come and grab your thangs out of your hands.

So it’s fascinating to watch you speak directly to adults in recent years, like when the doctor asked about Olive, and you became her little papa.  You made me recall that I always daydreamed about having a big bro or two, a big bro who would play basketball with his friends and come home for some Sunny D and then one of his cute friends would notice me in the kitchen with a big island and boojie fridge, but I digress.

When the doctor was asking ME about what Olive is able to do, you answered, “Yes, she’s able to recognize faces.  She knows me.  Yeah, she is starting to say lots of stuff.  She can say vowels AND consonants.  We started giving her rice and oatmeal cereal.  She likes it.  Yes, she can hold toys with both hands.”

And when it came time for her many shots and I braced myself needlessly, as she was my least crying baby yet, you suddenly appeared between me and Olive, having squirreled your way in.  At first, I was annoyed:  “Micah, you got to give me space!  Where did you even come from, Flash?”

You mostly spoke to Olive in response as you pet her cheeks, “I have to see her!  It’s gonna be okay, girl.  Look at me.  Look at me.  Don’t be scared.”

I laughed.  “She doesn’t even know what’s about to go down right now.”

As we walked home, with Olive succumbing to sleep in the Snap N Go that is already too snug for her, and you karate-chopping the air and jumping from tree root to tree root, I was struck by how the seemingly mundane life of a mom is full of miracles.

I get to witness my fetuses turn into puppy-like morsels, and morsels into full humans that grow, transform, and blossom, like my babbling, rolly six month old to my newly minted seven year old jack-o-lantern with a missing top tooth at this double doctor appointment in December.

I’m excited to see you after school and do some Advent activities tonight.  The Tooth Fairy must be busy this holiday season – her ETA is some time this week, I heard.  Thank you for being a super big bro to Olive, and to Ellis, too (most of the time).




2012-11-29 10.32.04

11.29.12  The original double doctor appointment five years ago, when you just turned two and E was almost two months old.  Look at you, both in diapers!


Your photo of Olive while Mommy held her head.